Senate Reform


[A refreshing change badly needed]

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It seems that every four years since Confederation, the subject of reforming Canada’s Senate rears its head.  Aside from politicians attempting to score points, I don’t know too many Canucks who care.

Stuff like the Duffy brouhaha occur now and then and usually get addressed one way or another. I have faith in the courts and have bigger things to worry about than Mike Duffy and an alleged $90,000 from Nigel Wright.  Frankly, if Wright is silly enough to plunk $90,000 into Duffy’s bank account, my initial (gut) reaction is one of envy.  It would not cause me to run through the streets shouting that the sky is falling.

Perspective and logic have little place in contemporary election campaigns.   The little boys and girls cloistered in war rooms of a couple of the “national” parties latched onto the Senate issue as if it is something new.  In perspective, the grand total of the financial siphoning by all four of the senators has made zero difference on (1) my monthly grocery and utilities bills; (2) the age of my car or (c) the weather which periodically aggravates my arthritis.

It is confounding to watch and read the soap-opera antics of mainstream media who are camped out in front of an Ottawa court house.  I truly suspect that the media interest in the “affair Duffy” have much less to do with the legitimate newsworthiness of the story than the media outlets attempting to use a truly irrelevant event to further whatever political agenda the (said) outlet supports.  My opinion? The media’s fascination y in such “scandals” is simply picking the lowest hanging fruit or foraging for windfall in an orchard.

It seems to me that the nearly $3.0 BILLLION squandered by Ontario Premier Wynne on the PanAm games fiasco is tragically more offensive than Duffy and his silly $90,000.!!!!!!!

Get a grip, folks.  Let the courts work through the thing and insist that the media deal with real news.  We have homelessness, we have youth poverty and we have inequality in education and health care for Aboriginal people.  It is disconcerting that the media that short shrift in the media is afforded to such poverty issues as well as the willful blindness to the need for a full scale inquiry into missing Aboriginal women. Though I suspect that the latter issue would lead a trail back to various provincially operated children’s aid societies.

The Risk of What is Being Promoted by Mulcair and Trudeau

Hidden away in the back pages of media for months has been a quietly boiling and fermenting agitation inside parts of Quebec to move towards sovereignty or separation from Canada.

Those of us who maintain contacts with folks in the know in Quebec can tell you that there is a very noisy demographic inside Quebec that would love to have the constitution (Pierre Trudeau’s curse to Canada) reopened.

To affect legal change as would either abolish or create an elected Senate would require Constitutional modifications. For those modifications to take place, the rules are clearly set out in the Constitution (1982) in paragraphs 38 to 49.

Those safeguards were inserted into the Constitution to prevent one (or several) of the provinces from abrogating (taking away) rights or representation of other provinces.  For simplicity, the formula for amending the Canadian Constitution demands that at least seven provinces that approve the change, representing at least 50% of Canada’s population must accept the changes (IE: Senate Reform).

The matter is further complicated by the fact at least two of the Provinces have gone further in demanding that provincial referendums must take place inside the provinces (Alberta and British Columbia) must happen before those two provinces would be able to vote in favor of whatever change would be required to modify rules pertaining to the Senate.

The 2011 General election saw the NDP fill enough seats in the House of Commons as would make then (the NDP) the official opposition and pushing the Liberals into the position of being a rump (or third party).

Comparing the 2008 and 2011 Canada General election results, a phenomenon is apparent. Somehow after evolving from a small prairie party (The Commonwealth of Canadian Farmers –CCF) the NDP broke through into Quebec where they snatched 57 seats that were largely held previously by the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberals.

Much of the NDP party status rides on those Quebec seats. If Mulcair loses those seats, he opens the door for either Trudeau or Harper.  Though I suspect that the decision of Giles Duceppe (Bloc) to come out of retirement is a factor that Mulcair has failed to recognize… but I digress.

We fail badly when we insist on ignoring history. Two previous attempts have been made to bring about Constitutional reform.  The Meech Lake Accord in 1987 and the Charlottetown Accord in 1990 were each attempts proposing a number of changes to the Constitution that were negotiated by the different leaders of Canada. However, when it came time to use the general amending formula, neither attempt could get all of the different agreements required using the general formula.

What ensued during the 1987 and 1990 discussions were high levels of market uncertainty. Investors, wary of a fractured nation shied away.  Those concerns lead to unwillingness to invest in Canada thereby triggering unemployment. To unleash such economic chaos again over something as inconsequential as how the maximum number (113) of Senators get into office is insane and would only be unleashed by a lunatic.

Want Senate Reform?

The ink is barely dry on the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report. It received and will continue to receive “lip service” until such time as we all insist that our elected politicians come to grips with nation to nation agreement and consensus.

Like you, I watch the various leaders as they engage in photo opportunities with one or more Aboriginal groups.  Recently, Trudeau’s handlers have had him use this phrase repeatedly, “First Nations   , Metis Nations  and Inuit” He inserts it as if it is a magical mantra showing his knowledge of all thing Aboriginal.

A couple things escape the politicians.  First, “First Nations” as they use the term means “Assembly of First Nations (AFN) which is less than 40% of the First Nation’s people in Canada.  AFN’s member tribes are often referred to as “status “meaning that the tribe members have “status” as Aboriginal people as set out in the various treaties.  Those tribes that never succumbed to treaty and ceding of hereditary lands are referred to as “non-status”.   AFN precludes the inclusion of the numerous (non-status) tribes that never did succumb to colonialism and sign treaties (with Britain or later, Canada).  As example, vast numbers of various Algonquin tribes in present day Ontario and Quebec and numerous Mi’kmaq tribes along the Atlantic coast are excluded.

The AFN is a convenient (and lazy) vehicle for governments and politicians to perpetuate a history of not even attempting to understand the enormity of difference among the various tribes – much of it cultural but also largely a result of geography.

Second, the newly coined Trudeau “term” is very much a misnomer.  Get it straight (who ever is advising Justin) THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A METIS NATION.  There are numerous Métis nations again largely defined by geography and culture BUT each tribe and each Métis is very much “aboriginal” as set out in Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution.  However, there is no such thing as “Métis Nation” nor would any real Métis want to take part in such a “bulk packaging charade”.  Métis in north Manitoba are quite unique to urban Métis throughout Canada linguistically, geographically and culturally.

I have the same “issue” with the term Inuit. To use the “term” Inuit is to preclude the Inuinnait, the Inuktitut, the Yupik, the Ungava, the Igloolik, Caribou, Netsilik, Copper and others.

If the Senate of Canada is truly to be a “Chamber of sober second thought” and IF government is genuine and sincere in wanting to deal nation to nation and follow the guidance of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Senate of Canada could be reshaped in such a manner that it is comprised entirely and proportionately of Aboriginal people (Section 35).

Simple and straight forward, all of Canada would have a part of government committed to the environment and “Mother (earth)”.

The distribution would be fairly straightforward.  Out of each of Canada’s political divisions, simply assign senate seats based upon those who self identify (yes, self identify) to fall into one or another of the several hundred different tribes still here in Canada.

No need to engage in esoteric constitution reform and divisive discussion.  All it would require is the good will of the sitting Prime Minister to ensure that the Senate of Canada become populated entirely with Aboriginal people. Thus, parliament would predominantly represent non-Aboriginals and the Senate would be comprised entirely of custodians of the land – Mother – the Earth.

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Copyright   Thunderbird Rising 2015

 The above article is copyrighted.  You may use, copy or distribute this article conditional on attributing your source (Thunderbird Rising) and the author (Lloyd Fournier)

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